I was brought up to respect my elders. It was drilled into me from the minute I was old enough to talk. Over the years, it’s been difficult at times, given that some of the elders who crossed my path were complete plonkers, devoid of reason, and lacking any semblance of a moral code. So I made an allowance. I reinterpreted the edict to read: Respect the elders you don’t know; apply discretion to the ones you do. But now, that rule, too, has been challenged.
Let me give you some context.
My nephew is in town. My other nephew. The one who was here last year. He’s a special kid with a special take on the world. And he’s 15. He alternates between a monosyllabic yes/no and a stream of consciousness rhetoric that runs the gamut from Donal Trump to ISIS to GMO to the effect of magnets on credit cards. There is no limit to where his conversation might take us. There are no boundaries.
Rather than offer choices, I’ve been dictating what we do. On Wednesday, Plácido Domingo was playing a free gig in Papp László. About 6000 tickets were there for the taking. We knew we’d have to queue for a couple of hours but hey – it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The kid posse went ahead. Five of them. The message filtered back – we were about 250 from the front and the line was growing. I arrived shortly afterwards and all looked well. An orderly line.
Then the brazen began to jump the queue and the orderly got restless. And the heavens opened and it milled down. We had thunder, too. The crowd surged forward trying to get to the two tents before the barrier. People behind me shoved and poked and prodded. Calls that went out to security to open the venue were met with entreaties not to start a stampede. It was all quite exciting.
Some ten minutes later, the rain stopped and the jostling stopped. And all was well. We were well. We were wet. But we were well. And we were singing.
More people skipped the queue and others got angry. But for the most part, the line remained intact. It rained again. And umbrellas were useless. While they might protect the head, shoulders, backs, and necks were getting soaked by the rivulets flowing from the umbrellas beside you. The rain stopped. The body heat switched on and the steam rose from the crowd. Some of the cold dissipated. But the smell was bad. But again, all was well. A little less well, but well nonetheless.
Two hours later, the doors opened. And then those cute little old dears in their heels and their pearls, turned into ninjas. They barreled forward, regardless. Their age had suddenly became their right to behave badly. I tried to hold steady, to push back, but up against a 60+ year old armed with a brolly, brandishing her time spent on Earth like a bayonet, I was useless. It was that deep, abiding urge to respect my elders that did me in. But I, too, have my limits.
Some ten meters from the door, where the channel narrowed, I stood my ground. Elbows splayed, knees braced, I dropped my umbrella behind me and stopped. Dead. They cursed. They pushed. They poked. They berated me. They shouted at me. But I held steady. For all of 8 seconds. But it felt like a victory. For in those 8 seconds, I revised my rule: Become the elder that others will respect.
Inside, we pulled out our homemade pizza, my second birthday cake, a bottle of bubbly for the adults and some kids’ champers for the kids complete with the ever-so-stylish plastic cups. And we ate brazenly. Just let the security guards come wrestle with us for eating stuff not bought on the premises. I’d gone 8 seconds with the oldies. There was nothing they could do to me.
Five old dears in the next row pulled out their bottle of palinka and their plastic medicine dispensers and started to do shots. Now they were my kind of elderly.
An hour later, just past 8.30, Plácido Domingo made his appearance. We had good seats. From where we sat, he looked like a young Tom Jones. He was in fine form. And he had the magnificent Angel Blue, defender of beauty pageants and soprano extraordinaire, to keep him company.
My boy was having trouble sitting still. Probably because he said he didn’t eat cold pizza and needed extra cake because he was hungry. I don’t think Verdi did it for him. He perked up a little at the fabulous Meditation by Jules Massenet featuring the young talent of Váradi Gyula. But didn’t really get into it until Domingo left the classics behind and went to Broadway duetting with Angel Blu. A number from West Side Story, another from My Fair Lady, and a third from South Pacific saved the evening in his eyes.
We got home tired. And wet. And cold. But he has something to remember – he did his first wet queuing. That’ll stand him in good stead in years to come, when the memory of it all will morph those two wet hours into five as he tries to impress some young one with his youthful acquaintance with Plácido Domingo. Me? I was happy I finally got to see the man live.